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Conscription is legislated in South Korea, with military service mentioned as one of the Four Constitutional Duties (along with taxes, education, and labor) for all citizens. The current effective Conscription Law, however, applies only to males although women can volunteer as officers. Military service varies according to branch: 21 months for the Army and Marine Corps, 23 months for the Navy, 24 months for the Air Force and 25 months for civil service. The other professional civil service is from 26 months to 36 months.

South Korea currently has among the longest military service periods in the world, ranked just behind Israel. In recent years, there has been significant pressure from the public demanding either a shortening of the term or a switch to voluntary military service.

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